The use of an earth-based high-power laser beam to provide energy for earth-launched rocket vehicle is investigated. The laser beam energy is absorbed in an opaque propellant gas and is converted to high-specific-impulse thrust by expanding the heated propellant to space by means of a nozzle. This laser propulsion scheme can produce specific impulses of several thousand seconds. Payload to gross-weight fractions about an order of magnitude higher than those for conventional chemical earth-launched vehicles appear possible. There is a potential for a significant reduction in cost per payload mass in earth orbit.